The Birth of Consciousness in Early Greek Thought – PHI 503

COURSE DESCRIPTION

During a period of history that the modern philosopher Eric Voegelin named The Great Leap of Being, a few thinkers on the fringes of the Greek world began to explore the nature of the cosmos and with it the nature of human being. These natural philosophers included Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Parmenides and Anaxagoras, the latter being the first philosopher to take up residence in Athens. These thinkers were the most important of those who began to write and think about the cosmos using a new language, rejecting the mytho-poetic language of Homer and Hesiod. The books (or scrolls) written by these thinkers were circulated in the Agora, or marketplace, in Athens and stimulated the thought of Socrates and later his students Plato and Aristotle. The Great Leap of Being described a period roughly from 800-300 BC when many great teachers were alive and presenting consciousness-altering visions of truth, reality and meaning. An important addition to course material will be a consideration of the Eleusinian and Delphic Mysteries and their relation to a new vision of consciousness.

 

 

COURSE SESSIONS AND TOPICS

This course does not have a prerequisite and familiarity with Ancient Greek is not required.

Week 1

Introductory readings and lecture posted online to introduce student to the course outline and desired outcomes. Introduction to Pre-Socratic Philosophy. Students are asked to note the change in Language between Greek myth and early philosophy.

Objective 1: To orient the student towards the scope and objectives of the course.

Objective 2: To be able to distinguish the change in language between Greek myth and early philosophy.

Week 2

The Fragments of Heraclitus – The Logos
Readings will include the fragments and commentary from Remembering Heraclitus
Introduction, Essential Fragments and Chapter entitled Logos (all online). Students are asked to evaluate the tone of the fragments and evaluate how historians describe the thought of Heraclitus.  Exercise: What does the phrase “Delian Diver” mean and what does it tell us about the study of early Greek thought?

Objective 1: To be able to analyze and discuss the tone of Heraclitus’ fragments.

Objective 2: To be able to discuss and evaluate how historians describe the thought of Heraclitus.

Weeks 3, 4

The fragments of Parmenides with readings from Parmenides and the Way of Truth.
Chapters 1, 2 (online) Students are asked to see the difference between these two first philosophers and to evaluate their impact on the future of philosophy.

Objective 1: To be able to assess and discuss the differences between Heraclitus and Paramenides.

Objective 2: To be able to evaluate and discuss the impact of Heraclitus and Paramenides on the future of philosophy.

Week 5

The fragments of Anaxagoras and Commentary from Anaxagoras and Universal Mind
Chapters 1, 2, 3 (online). Why is Anaxagoras the first philosopher to appear in Athens?

Objective 1: To be able to analyze and discuss the fragments of Anaxagoras with a view to their elucidation of universal mind.

Objective 2: To be able to explain why Anaxagoras was the first philosopher to appear in Athens.

Week 6

The figure of Socrates – life and influence – passages from Anamnesis by Eric Voegelin
Lecture CD from Dr. Raymond Moody and lecture from Dr Geldard.
How are we to evaluate the importance of Socrates in the subsequent work from Plato?
What is the role of Diotima in the “Symposium”?  What (or who) is Love?

Objective 1: To be able to describe and discuss the life and influence of Socrates.

Objective 2: To be able to evaluate the importance of Socrates in the subsequent work from Plato.

Objective 3: To be able to assess and describe the role of Diotima in the “Symposium.”

Objective 4: To be able to describe who or what is Love in Socrates’ thought.

Week 7

The Eleusinian and Delphic Mysteries and their impact on philosophy.
History, purpose and secrets of the Mysteries.
Traveler’s Key to Ancient Greece
 (section online)
Why are the Mysteries considered a vital part of the story of philosophy? Should they be considered at all?

Objective 1: To be able to describe and discuss the history, purpose and secrets of the Delphic Mysteries.

Objective 2: To be able to discuss why the Mysteries are considered a vital part of the story of philosophy.

Week 8

Plato’s Republic
The Dialectic
Book 1 and the problem of defining justice
What role does the dialectic approach play in modern philosophy?
The Allegory of the Cave
Why does Plato employ allegory in Book 7 and what is he trying to illustrate?

Objective 1: To be able to describe and discuss Plato’s Republic with especial reference to the problem of defining justice as brought out in Book I.

Objective 2: To be able to discuss what role the dialectic approach plays in modern philosophy.

Objective 3: To be able to discuss why Plato employs allegory in Book VII.

Week 9

Students are asked to find common threads through the course reading which shed light on the development of consciousness from the earliest fragments through the Allegory of the Cave in Book 7 of The Republic. Both primary and secondary sources should be applied to this exploration.

Objective 1: To be able to discover and discuss common threads which shed light on the development of consciousness from the earliest fragments through the Allegory of the Cave in Book 7 of The Republic.

Week 10

Consideration of a philosophical text: The Hermetica – sample texts online.

Students will read Chapter 8 of The Origin of Philosophy by Jose Ortega y Gasset, entitled “The Attitude of Parmenides and Heraclitus” as an example of critical evaluation. What does it tell us about the study of philosophy?

Objective 1: To be able to conduct a critical evaluation of the early Greek thinkers.

Objective 2: To be able to discuss the contribution of the early Greek thinkers to the study of philosophy.

Week 12

Audio lectures will be placed online for each week’s work.

In addition, short quizzes will assess comprehension, knowledge and understanding.

 

OUTCOMES

As a course designed for beginning graduate work, The Birth of Consciousness in Early Greek Thought will focus first on the fragments of those early Greek thinkers whose efforts to explain the world gave us valuable clues to the beginnings of Western philosophy. Students will examine the fragments of three such thinkers: Heraclitus, Parmenides and Anaxagoras. The desired outcomes will include a basic grasp of these fragments and their contribution to the history of consciousness. In addition, the final weeks of the course will examine several important dialogues by Plato to see how this later thinker filled out the earlier fragments to develop a new concept of what it means to be a conscious individual.

Outcome 1: To be able to describe, discuss and analyze the fragments of early Greek thinkers Heraclitus, Parmenides and Anaxagoras with a view to express how their efforts to explain the world gave us valuable clues to the beginnings of Western philosophy.

Outcome 2: To be able to assess and describe the contributions of the writings of the above-mentioned thinkers to the history of consciousness

Outcome 3: To be able to discuss and analyze how Plato’s dialogues filled out the earlier fragments to develop a new concept of what it means to be a conscious individual.

 

Richard G. Geldard, PhD – Dramatic Literature and Classics, Stanford University, Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at Yeshiva University, Doctoral Faculty at Pacifica Graduate Institute, and Author of ten books on Early Greek philosophy and the thought of Ralph Waldo Emerson.  [www.rgbooks.com]

 

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PURCHASE AUDIO / VIDEO

The lecture series from this course is also available for independent study.
>> Click Here to order these course materials.

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